“I’m so original, baby/just like everyone else.” So sings Kirk Rawlings, guitarist for the Memphis quartet Organ Thief, on the group’s frequently exciting debut album, Orphan Teeth. It’s the kind of smart-ass gamesmanship you’d expect from a band that actually titled a song “Sound of Sarcasm,” but it’s not altogether unwarranted.
Organ Thief might not qualify as original (what does, in a post-modern world of cut-and-paste pastiche?), but their mix of influences, and the skill with which they incorporate them into their sound, makes theirs a highly idiosyncratic presence on the underground-rock scene. At times, as with the side-saddle art-funk of “Psychochauffeur,” they recall the rhythmic gymnastics of early ’80s King Crimson. On the driving “Marcus Aurelius,” they suggest what might have happened if Talking Heads and Television had simultaneously occupied the stage of CBGB in 1976. With the aforementioned “The Original,” they even take an ironic shot at polyester pseudo-jazz, a la “Riders on the Storm.” They offer no consistent sensibility, other than a compulsion to tweak song-form conventions for their own jaded purposes.
The Stock Market Crash,
Tue, July 4
Limelight Music and Drinks
2718 N. St. Mary’s
Organ Thief can do a credible facsimile of punk rock when they’re so inclined, and they’re not above the occasional hint of sophomoric, novelty-song humor (note the wordless, groaning vocals of “Seasick Sing-a-long”), but they’re at their best when they let bassist Tom Arndt (a graybeard ringer who’s been playing in bands since 1967!) go all rubbery and they collectively explore the complex calculus of oddball time signatures. At moments like that, they’re even more original than everyone else.
- Gilbert Garcia